Following the acquittal of former Indonesian domestic worker of Changi Airport Group Chairman Liew Mun Leong for four charges of theft, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said on Tuesday (8 September) that the authorities take the judge’s comments very seriously, and will deal with what went wrong in the process of investigations.
Mr Shanmugam said this to reporters on the sidelines of a grassroots events, after he was asked to comment on the case.
The minister went on to warn the public against prejudging on which part of the process errors had been made, and that they should wait for the outcome of reviews that are now being carried out by the authorities.
Voicing his thoughts on the reviews, Mr Shanmuugam said: “In the process, we should not be defensive. It should not be a witch hunt. It’s good to be a fair process. We have to find out what happened, why it happened and then deal with it. And be accountable. That’s the best way to build trust in public, in the system. To come out in public and say what steps we have taken once the reviews are done.”
For those who are not aware of the case, on Friday (4 September), the High Court dismissed the convictions of Parti Liyani, an Indonesian domestic worker on four theft charges brought against her by the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC), four years after she was first arrested by the Singapore Police at the Changi Airport.
Parti was the ex-domestic helper of Mr Liew and his family, and had worked for them for eight years. She was arrested in December 2016 after returning to Singapore as there was a warrant out for her arrest.
Mr Liew had earlier filed a police report against her two days after her service was abruptly terminated and she was sent back to Indonesia, claiming that she had stolen valuables from family members.
After a series of investigations and court hearings, Parti was sentenced 26 months of imprisonment by District Judge Olivia Low on 25 March 2019. The sentence was reduced to this amount as the District Judge removed certain items from the charges and reduce the value of the alleged stolen items due to the efforts by her lawyer, Mr Anil Balchandani from Red Lion Circle law firm.
Parti then filed an appeal against the conviction and Justice Chan Seng Onn who heard the appeal, overturned the convictions from the lower court as he finds them unsafe.
The case had also sparked public outcry, with some questioning if the class and status differences between Parti and Mr Liew and his family had led to unfairness in the judicial process.
In response to this, Mr Shanmugam noted that it is good to see that justice has been served, based on the High Court’s judgment.
However, he highlighted that the justice system is fair and impartial to all, adding that the status and position of the parties involved in the case does not matter.
“(Ms Parti) was charged in a criminal case based on a complaint by the business person. The judge’s judgment goes through the facts very carefully. It sets out what the break in the chain of evidence is and in that way, it is good to see that justice is both blind and that justice has been delivered.”
The Law Minister also praised Parti’s laywer, Mr Balchandani for his job well done. Although Mr Shanmugam did not read the lawyer’s submissions, but he was told that Mr Balchandani had spotted many inconsistencies in the evidence and pointed out why his client should not be convicted.
“He did a thorough and good job of it. That’s a lawyer’s job. To be thorough, to be clear, to put forward everything fairly to the court. Based on what I’ve heard, I think he ought to be commended. He’s done a good job.”
On Sunday (6 September), the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the police and the Ministry of Manpower said that they are looking into the case.
The police also said that they would be dealing with some of the observations made by Justice Chan in regards to the police investigations.
Although the police did not reveal further on what these observations were, Justice Chan found that there was a break in the chain of custody of the evidence.
As such, he said that this has created a reasonable doubt as to whether some of the allegedly stolen items found by the family were correctly documented by the photographs taken by the police about five weeks later.
During this period of time, the family members were also informed by the police that they can freely use the items. It was stated that they took and placed back the items into the boxes, but it was not clear whether the items were put back into the same boxes it was removed from earlier.
Justice Chan also pointed out that two statements of Parti were taken with no interpreter.
Following the acquittal of four theft charges last week, on Tuesday (7 September), Parti was also cleared of the fifth charge, for fraudulent possession of property at the State Courts, after prosecutors applied for the charge to be withdrawn.